Water Pollution In Africa: Reasons, Effects, Statistics

It is a sad fact that even with all the big rivers, Africa content stands amongst the continents whose waters are heavily polluted.

To show the extent to which water pollution has affected this continent, all its countries (including the developed ones) are faced with the water pollution problem.

But what are the reasons behind this pollution? What are the results of the pollution?

In this post, we take a closer look at the water pollution menace in Africa, its effects on the Africans, and so much more.

Let’s dive into more details…

Causes of Water Pollution in Africa

There are numerous reason behind the widespread water pollution in Africa- right from the poor human waste management to the industrial dumping.

In this section, we’ll take a look at the MAJOR causes of water pollution in Africa. These include:

1. Mining

Africa has the advantage of producing some of the most precious minerals, not easily found in many other parts of the world.

While this might sound good for the continent, the process of mining these minerals contributes to water pollution. This is because the poorly managed process leads to the introduction of harmful substances into the water.

The effects of these substances include an increase in the mineral and salt content in the water bodies, effect on the water pH, and even increased water murkiness.

With all these effects, it’s no doubt that the waters become unfit for human consumption. And if consumed, they’ll lead to health problems.

2. Agriculture

As you already know, farming is the backbone of the African economy. Surprisingly it also contributes to the water problem in the continent.

How? You might wonder…

The physical distraction of the farming soils and vegetation during ploughing, logging, overgrazing, roads construction, etc. result in soil erosion. This, in turn, leads to the introduction of salts and minerals in the soil to water bodies during rainfalls.

Besides, the use of excreta and fertilizers in the farms leads to vast amounts of phosphate and nitrates in water bodies- resulting in eutrophication.

Don’t forget they also use pesticides on their farms which can also be easily carried into water bodies, leading to the introduction of harmful substances into the waters.

3. Deforestation

Deforestations happen around the globe. But it’s more practiced in most African countries as they seek to clear more and more land for urbanization and agriculture.

For those who don’t know, deforestation refers to the process through which forests get cut down without planting new trees to replace them. This environmental unfriendly process strips the soil the protective vegetation, and soil erosion ensures.

Needless to mention, more soil into water bodies will affect the water plants and animals as well as make the water unfit for drinking.

4. Urbanization

More and more people are moving to towns every year. In fact, the urbanization rate is predicted to hit the 50% mark by the year 2030.

While this might be good news for the Africans, it also comes with its fair share of contribution to water pollution. Case in point, urbanization translates to clearing more land for building roads, houses, industries, and other essential institutions. This translates to deforestation and soil erosion.

Sewerage treatment might also become an issue as the urban population grows, further leading to the intoxication of drinking waters.

5. The Rise of Industries

This is directly related to our previous point above; industrialization of Africa has led to increased urbanization.

The many factories and companies will then dump their wastes into surrounding water bodies. Keeping in mind that these residues are full of toxic substances, you can easily tell that the resulting water will be entirely unsafe for humans health.

Even worse, most of the African governments don’t show efforts of stopping the industrial dumping given that these companies are making huge profits.

6. Poor Sanitation

With people lacking a proper way to dispose of human waste in most parts of the African content, it slowly finds its way to the water sources.

This leads to water that’s unsafe for human consumption as it gets contaminated with parasites, bacteria and other pollutants. Sadly (or due to lack of choice), you’ll find people still drinking this water or using it for other needs.

And this leads to outbreaks of water-related illnesses that go as far as causing loss of lives

7. Politics

Believe you me; politics also play a role in water problems in Africa…

There are often many water sources that are shared by more than one country. This has led to some conflicts- for instance when one country decides to dam a shared river. This may lead to flooding or drought on one side or the other.

The conflict that will result after that will lead to water pollution as neither of the parties will be able to focus on maintaining the cleanliness of the water. There are many rivers, and lakes spread all over the continent, and 80 are shared by more than one country.

Effects of Water Pollution in Africa

Now that you know the leading causes of water pollution in the world’s second largest (and second most populous- with a population of 1.216 billion people) continent, you might be wondering how this situation affects the inhabitants.


In this section, we’ll turn our focus lens on the various ways in which the water problem affect the lives of Africans…

Limited Access to Clean Water

Water pollution involves the introduction of harmful, poisonous chemicals and other substances into waters (both ground and surface) making them undrinkable.

In other words, the contamination of water makes it unsafe for human use. And with the increased rate of water pollution in Africa, so is the availability of clean water becoming limited.

Agricultural (and Food Supply)

When the polluted water runs through farming soils, the soils will become contaminated with harmful toxins that will affect the growth of plants already in the farms and those yet to be planted.

Deforestation and urbanization also cause soil erosion which carries away the top fertile soil layers, stripping the soil of the essential nutrients needed by plants to grow.

Above all, lack of sufficient water will make it impossible for plants to grow, and in most cases, they’ll eventually dry out.

Considering that agriculture is the main thing for Africans, the effect of water pollution on farming will cut short their food supply and leave many of them starving.

Health Effects

As we did mention earlier, most of the developing countries in Africa lack better sanitation practices. They don’t have access to toilets, latrines, etc., so they use watercourses for urination and defecation.

When the fecal water pollution teams up with other sources of water pollution, it leads to a myriad of diseases- a handful of which have claimed lives of many Africans.

Here’s a list of the most common water-related infections in Africa:


Cholera is known to have devastating effects on those that it affects. It results in a person having leg cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. This in effect causes dehydration within a short time.

The ability to deal with cholera is wanting in the continent; many developing countries are unable to treat the people who are suffering from cholera. This has caused many to die because of lack of medical assistance.

Dengue Fever

This fever is known to be caused by mosquitos. It leads one to suffer from high fever, headaches, rashes, and pain as well. It may not always cause death, but it is known to lead to complications that affect the liver. This complication is known to lead to the liver malfunctioning, and this may cause death.


With advanced medical care facilities, this can be treated. But for the many in Africa where the health services are not yet well established many dies as a result of hepatitis. It causes one to lose weight significantly, suffer from a lot of discomfort and pain and leads to fever. It is also known to cause diarrhea.


Parasites that exist in water which is untreated are known to be many. Water laying around in not well-sanitized conditions can be the habitat for parasites such as ringworm, scabies, and hookworm among others.

If a person is exposed for a long time to these water sources or drinking from them regularly, they fall at risk of getting sick. Livestock also falls at risk of being infected as well, and they may pass on the parasites to people who eat the meat from them.


Malaria is one of the biggest health challenges that Africa faces. It is spread by the mosquitos that breed in the many dirty water pools. Swamps are one of them.

Malaria is known to affect all, but the ones who are at most risk are children below five years as well as the pregnant mothers. They don’t have the strong immunity to fight the disease.

Shocking Statistics on Water Situation in Africa

Shocking Statistics on Water Situation in Africa

Before we call an end to our post on the water problem in Alkebulan (that’s the ancient name for Africa), allow me to share with you some shocking facts on the water situation in the continent below:

  • Out of the 54 counties in Africa, 14 of them experience severe water shortage issue, and 11 more are expected to have the same experience in a few years to come. In simpler terms, it means that nearly 50% of the continent’s population will be facing limited access to clean water.
  • In this continent, a total of 650 people lose their lives every day due to diarrhea that’s water relayed. Most of the victims are pregnant women and underage children.
  • In most of the developing African countries, you’d be surprised to find out that an average person consumes around 2.6- 5.2 gallons of water in a day. This is unlike the 158 gallons consumed by an average person in developed countries like the US. This is to mean that Africa doesn’t always wash their hands, foods or clothes to save to save the water for drinking/cooking. This might be a good source of poor hygiene infection across the continent.
  • Out of all the rivers and lakes in Africa (Africa is home to 677 lakes btw), 80 are shared by more 1-2 or more countries. This often leads to political stress, where the parties interested keep conflicting over the ownership/usage of the resources. And this makes the states unable to keep the water clean or readily available to its citizens.
  • 30% of the continent water is found in the Congo basin. Unluckily, only 10% of the entire Africa populations get to enjoy this water, leading to unequal distribution of water (and acute water shortages across the planet.
  • Of the entire (huge) population residing in sub-Saharan Africa, only 16% enjoys access to clean water through the dedicated taps in their homes and yards. Part of the remaining population relies on community wells while the others gather the surface water from the nearby sources. Keep in mind that this water isn’t clean/filtered and might easily pose health risks to the entire population that relies on it.
  • Up to 42% of all the healthcare facilities in the world’s second-largest continent lack easy access to clean water. This is a call for concern, given that victims of contaminated water rely on these facilities as their last hope. The doctors will have a hard time conducting procedures that require the use of clean water. They’ll have difficulties treating dehydration issues that need clean water.
  • 85% of the children below five years of age in African continent lose their loves due to lack of access to clean drinking water. They simply die due to contaminated waters and water-borne diseases.

Final Verdict

One of the biggest problems facing Africa right now is lack of access to clean water that’s safe for drinking/cooking. This comes from the fact that most of the continent’s waters are getting contaminated by various human activities- like mining, urbanization, deforestation, industrial dumping, poor sanitation, agriculture, and even politics.

Given that Africa is the second largest/second most populous continent (with up to 1.216 billion people) on this planet, this issue can’t be ignored.

All the African countries need to join hands and come up with long-lasting solutions that will save the billion plus lives of lives before it’s too late.

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